A response from the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs:
Over the past few days, RIT has welcomed thousands of new students, graduate and undergraduate, to our university. The new student orientation program is a five-day university-wide collaboration to plan a series of events, activities, and opportunities designed to assist students in transitioning to student life at RIT.
This year, with the increased attention and need to address the serious problem of sexual misconduct, we called upon the expertise of the staff in our Student Counseling and Psychological Services office, Center for Student Conduct and Conflict Mediation, Center for Women and Gender, and the office of the Title IX Coordinator to develop an on-campus program to serve as a follow-up from the online education program “Think About It” that new students completed prior to their arrival on campus. The follow-up program was titled “Alcohol and Chill” and the stated agenda for the program was awareness, prevention, bystander education, and risk reduction.
The format of the program was more of a “straight talk” approach, weaving in humor along with important facts and identifying resources for students. The overarching goal was to increase awareness and promote discussion about the ways we together can prevent instances of sexual misconduct on our campus. Unfortunately, one slide, out of 77, taken out of context, has sparked controversy, mainly on social media surrounding the entire program. In my opinion, this serves to underscore the complexity involved in addressing this issue. In our experience, telling students what “not to do” without talking about specific situations that are difficult to navigate is irresponsible; we addressed the subject from a place and context that students could understand.
The safety and well-being of all members of the RIT community is our highest priority. To help achieve this goal, RIT has established a comprehensive proactive approach to reporting, investigating, and responding appropriately to allegations of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence. Although we might disagree on the means to promoting awareness and talking about the issues, we believe that the entire university must work together to cultivate a safe environment in which all members can live, work, and learn.
While some may think the program on Wednesday evening missed the mark, we’ve had positive feedback from many of the students, both new and returning, in attendance. These are difficult conversations that can be awkward and uncomfortable, and we apologize if we unintentionally offended anyone.
Sandra S. Johnson
Senior Vice President for Student Affairs